Relationships – The Art of Loving

Mutuality is the secret to a happy marriage.  Though, I once heard it said, that the secret to a happy marriage was to have no secrets, which is the essence of mutuality, mutual respect, love, and validation.

The early stages of love are mainly based on projected material.  A projection is the ideal of what we want in a relationship that we place upon the other.  In reality, we are really falling in love with ourselves.

In the beginning, we view the relationship through rose-colored glasses.  This is the time in relationship when one sees the best of who he or she is in the other.  It is this feeling, which creates the charge that one experiences as desire.  After marriage, one redeems the projection and discovers that sometimes love is there, but often it is not.  The rituals of marriage signal that a change is afoot, and one has, in a sense, formed a new creation.

True to the creative process, anxiety for the unfamiliar arises usually in the first year of marriage.  It is here, that the expectations from one’s family of origin, influences impacts, and often interferes with the new relationship. By understanding, not only our family’s patterns, but also those of our mates, we are more likely to find a mutual approach to communication.

Pay attention.  Get to know your partner.  The way to know your mate is through not only listening, but hearing what they tell you about their feelings.  We can learn to understand our partner, through the quality time we spend together.  These shared experiences have the opportunity to build trust.

Trust in fact, is based on experience.  Mutual respect for each other’s feelings, as well as opinions and outside relationships, make each partner feel accepted for who they are.  When we reclaim our projected material, both partners will have a better chance to build a healthy relationship.

Because the positive and the negative qualities of our family of origin set the tone for our adult relationships, knowing ourselves is as important as learning about our mates.  If as a child, a spouse had a controlling parent, for example, then he or she will feel out-of-control as an adult, and in turn this makes he or she controlling.  Thus, such partners often gravitate toward controlling mates, who represent the familiar patterns of childhood.

The patterns of our family of origin become our comfort zone, the habitual patterns, that we have mastery over.  Hence, when one recognizes a familiar pattern such as control, he or she feels capable of dealing with that behavior pattern.

In all of our lives, from birth to death, there are only two people: mother and father.  All of our relationships are based on them.  Therefore, if one can gain greater insight into the familiar patterns of childhood that exist between mother and father, then one could recognize and integrate those childhood patterns and thus, no longer seek them in relationships.

By acknowledging, recognizing, and understanding not only our own family patterns, but that of our partner’s, we have the chance to bring those learned behaviors to consciousness.  And, such recognition can stop the repetition.  This allows for a new model of behavior between spouses, enabling them to form a mutual and healthy relationship.

One is ready to create a new family, when he or she takes conscious control of their respective lives.  This allows a focus on the difference between the wants and the needs of each partner in relationship.  Therefore, if one focuses on one’s needs which are based on the impression left by his or her original family unit, then one could juxtaposed those needs against what one wants in the new family.

As a result, couples can create with each other a new “normal” for their family.  This new normal should consist of something healthy that will work for both partners in relationship.

One must first recognize how each partner’s family resolved conflicts in the past.  Were conflicts repressed or brought out in the open?  Were the family members involved discounted or demeaned during the conflict?  What role did each partner play in his or her family, and how did each partner feel about the way conflict was handled in his or her family?  Identify the styles of conflict resolution in both families, especially how individuals within the family communicated, so that one can acknowledge, recognize, understand, and thus redefine a healthy relationship.


The Empathic Process

The empathic process is a noteworthy style of communication.  I developed the empathic process as a viable way for two people, in a relationship, to build a new pattern of dialogue that is healthy and successful for both.

1.The empathic process

Find a neutral location, preferably the kitchen which is the heart of the house and a place where alchemy happens rather than someone’s office, bedroom, or place of power.

2.The rules of engagement in the empathic process include:

  • How to successfully communicate
  1. The rules of engagement in the empathic process include both intimacy and respect.  Each person speaks a third of the time while making physical contact during communication to maintain an intimate atmosphere.  Both partners maintain eye contact during communication.  At no time, does either partner defend against accusations sent their way.
  2. The last third of the time is used for mutual conversation with both partners invested in the successful outcome of their dialogue.  This approach can be used weekly, at a set time in a set place, and as a time for reviewing the week’s problems and mutually solving them.  As a result of the empathic process, a safe place is created, in which both partners can return at any time.


  • Know your mate
  1. Never use confidential information as a weapon while fighting.  If you ask your mate to tell you honestly what he or she thinks of you, only to turn around and use it against him or her, trust will be broken and intimacy injured.
  2. Also, pay attention to your partner’s feelings and refrain from saying hurtful or reactive things.  You can win the battle, but lose the war by damaging esteem and demeaning your partner.


  • Time in rather than time out

Know yourself and develop coping skills that allow you to meet your own needs rather than have your partner meet them.  It is important to accept your partner, the person you love, as he or she is.  No one wants to perform for approval. And in a healthy relationship, each partner is free to express his or her love in a way that is natural for them.

  • Agree to, not always agree, but to walk together.

The human dilemma is that we are all different and cannot agree about everything, even if we are in love. What is important is that we respect and validate our differences and not try to create someone new out of the person we love.

  • Wants versus Needs

What is the difference between wants and needs?  We often say we want something but need something else.  Our needs are based on those early relationships with mother and father, and the manner in which we interacted with our parents.   Our wants are the ideal that we aspire to in relationship.  For example, we may want a peaceful relationship and yet be hypercritical or demanding, creating arguments at every turn.  Our childhood patterns may reflect this argumentative and hypercritical style.  This is what we know “how to do” from our interactions with our family of origin.  But, this is not the ideal of what we aspire to in relationship, and hence, the dissonance between our wants and our needs. As a result, by recognizing the differences between our wants and our needs, one is able to work towards a healthier and more balanced interaction.  And, bringing wants and needs to consciousness, allows one to deliberately and consciously act in the best interest of their relationship.


Mutuality and Projection

The early stages of love are mainly based on projected material; the ideal that we project onto the other of what we want in relationship.  We are really falling in love with ourselves.  After marriage, we take back our projection and then sometimes, love is there, often it is not.  The old adage of looking at the beloved through rose-colored glasses demonstrates this pattern.  This is the time in the relationship when one sees the best of who they are, in the other.  That creates a charge, which we experience as love.

The ritual of marriage signals that a change is afoot…a new creation is born.  And, true to creation after about 9 months, anxiety often arises within the marriage.  It is here, where expectations from our past, our family of origin, rears its head into our new relationship. So, it’s important in the beginning of relationship to pay attention, and get to know the real person behind those rose-colored glasses.  This is one of the main reasons why 50% of all marriages end in divorce and why, after a few years, we look at the other and say, “I didn’t know you did that…”

If on the other hand, we have had enough time and experience with our partner to know who they are, and we’ve had enough time to take back our projected material prior to marriage, and those childhood patterns that inform us, then we have a better chance of having a healthy relationship.  As children, we all learn how to live within our family unit and those are the models that we carry with us into our adult relationships.

Right at the beginning of relationship, it is important to acknowledge, recognize and understand our partner’s family patterns.  This gives one a greater insight into relationship—whether we like our families or not—they are familiar, and therefore we feel defined by them.  Even if we didn’t like some of the behavior in our family unit, we are doomed to repeat that behavior, unless we bring those patterns to consciousness.  As a result, by taking a good honest look at family patterns, one can create new models of behavior for a mutual relationship.  In a sense, we are deliberately creating a new family.


Fair Fighting Techniques

There’s an old saying, that a woman marries a man and thinking that she will change him – and she doesn’t; and, a man marries a woman, and thinking she’ll never change – and she does.  Life is about change, and all relationships are in motion.

There are many trees in our forest.  There is a happy tree, the sad tree; the good tree and the bad tree; the generous tree and the greedy tree; the compassionate tree and the rejecting tree.  This is what it is to be human, and as Freud said— the human dilemma.

When we fight, we typically enter the ring with our child tree.  We are angry and we have a loss of control.  However, in healthy fighting, we must say to the child tree, “You have no capacity to help me here so you stay behind and I will step forward with my adult tree, the part of me that can navigate conflict.”

Helalthy fighting begins with empathy.  After all this is your beloved with whom you are fighting.  The empathic process is a positive way to disagree problem-solve, and find compromise.

The rules of engagement for the empathic process include: 

1.To fight as an adult, we recognize that no one is perfect.

We move our attitude from all or nothing to realistically accepting the foiliables and failures of others without trying to convert them.  This requires both planning and empathic communication.   Yes, I’m actually telling you to plan your fight.

2.Find a neutral spot.

Not anyone’s office space or power place; no one’s bedroom or sexually charged environment, but rather the kitchen, the heart of the house, a place where alchemy happens.

Divide your speaking time by thirds, each speaking one third of the time without defense and with intimate listening, which requires touch, holding hands for example.  Then, the last third of the time, is used for mutual dialogue, a conversation in which problems are solved or compromise is considered.  The important message is to never defend accusations from one’s partner.

3.Simply listen.  Genuinely listen.  Be there.

Be present in the moment with interest.  Really listening means to open your heart and shut-off any inner dialogue that attempts to answer what your partner is saying.  Use descriptive language to explain your feelings and never interrupt.

4.Open your heart and be flexible.

Remember that we are a species in evolution and our lives are ever in motion.  People change.  Situations change.  It is important to be able to go with the flow.  Though we all fear the unfamiliar, by being flexible we can be available to the change and growth of our partners and ourselves.

5.Be honest.  Don’t perform for approval.

Say what you really feel, not what you think your partner wants to hear.  Value yourself and validate yourself.  If you do, your partner will value you as well.  Mutuality is essential in relationship.  So, listen to your inner voice and be who you are.  That is the only way to be loved.

Trust is based on experience.  Honesty really is the best policy.  Don’t keep secrets that are important to the relationship, from your mate.  If you do, they will ultimately turn around and bite you.  It is better for your partner to hear the truth of any situation from you.  Once trust is broken, it is very difficult to rebuild.

6.When fighting using the empathic process and consciously staying in your adult, it is important to fight fairly. 
Never use in a negative way, any information about your mate.  If you’re partner reveals something tender, hold it sacred.  If in the heat of battle you attack your mate with a shared confidence, you will not be given that confidence easily again.

7.Never fight on an empty stomach, or when tired, or distracted. 

Discuss with your partner a good time for both of you to engage in the empathic process.  You might set up a weekly encounter which helps to keep the lines of communication open.

8.Never personally attack your mate. 

You can criticize the problem, but never your partner. Express your feelings as your feelings, not your thoughts.  Don’t play the blame game. Own your own feelings and express them in a responsible way.  For example, instead of saying, “I think”, say “I feel.”

9.Don’t read your partner’s mind. 

Don’t tell your mate how he or she feels.  Listen, and let your mate tell you what is on his or her mind.  Never project your feeling onto your partner.   That only leads to fights centered around your projected material.  And time lost fighting battles that do not exist.

10.Honor the process. 

Don’t try to make anything happen, but rather see where your dialogue takes you and trust that because you love each other, you are capable of going there.

11.Keep your dialogue balanced. 

Don’t use this fight to bring in earlier problems and disagreements. Fight fairly by not using ammunition from older hurts and injuries.

12.Stay open to your natural self. 

Don’t play a role and behave in a way that is uncomfortable for you.  If you’re sorry, say you’re sorry.  Be at ease with your feelings.  We all make mistakes, but the greatest mistake is to put on a performance for a reaction.  If you feel vulnerable, show your vulnerability.  Love is a safe place, and you are loved because you are.

13.Never save stamps in a relationship. 

Don’t keep score.  Don’t keep a running account of hurts and injuries.  Keep in mind that the other, is also your beloved, and therefore, don’t hold grudges.

14.Finally, if the relationship is out-of-control, immediately seek professional counseling. 

Many relationships have been lost that could have been saved from the inability to ask for help.  Pride has no place in intimacy.  We all make mistakes and have misunderstandings.  And if the relationship cannot be saved, you are always free to leave.


What is a Healthy Relationship?

A healthy relationship is based on four words: love, commitment, obligation, and responsibility.  Before one can enter into a healthy relationship, one must first know themselves, acknowledge and recognize their patterns, and consciously override the impulse to connect with someone who sets off red flags.  For example, you may be attracted to the bad boy, but a healthy person deliberately chooses not to go there.

When one is moving from a place of wholeness rather than need, they recognize that they can take care of themselves.  This allows a space in which partners are free to care for one another.  Of course communication is essential and can only occur successfully in an environment of openness and empathy.  Then, emotional support is available for one another, as partners check in with each other, from time to time, to see how they are feeling, and what they are feeling.

A good dialogue allows each participant time to express their feelings and emotions; so it is important to listen carefully, asking questions and letting our mate know that we are interested in them, as well as their thoughts and feelings.

Intimacy requires time in, as well as time out.  Check in with your mate and ask them, on occasion how they feel, and how they are doing.  Being a part of a greater whole, requires that each partner have not only compassion for the other, but also empathy.

Healthy partnerships are open and honest.  They handle problems immediately rather than tabling them for another time, another day.  However, it is best to set aside a time to resolve conflicts, when each party is well-fed and rested.

A healthy lifestyle is one that includes balance.  So though it is important to have alone time with one another, it is also important to include at other times friends, family, work, and hobbies.  If you have a balanced and inclusive life, you can open yourself to other creative possibilities for both you and your partner together and individually.  Then neither party feels that they have sacrificed or given up anything for the other, but rather that their relationship is large enough, to contain both of them.

All relationships evolve and change.  Therefore, it is important to grow with one another, and to be aware of each other’s changes.  Transitions are the markers that define us, whether it is a new relationship or the loss of an old one, a life’s passage, or a career change, birth or death, etc.  To navigate these transitions, together, successfully, is to be sensitive and open to each other’s feelings.  By supporting one another’s growth, we can enhance relationship.

In the final analysis, a healthy relationship is one that is accepting of each other’s differences, as well as similarities, and allows the transcendence of something new to develop, that is uniquely yours together.